ETHICS AND COMMUNICATION
It’s obvious that technology has played a huge role in the way we conduct business today. Have these technological advances created a new breed of easily distracted, inefficient employees? Are employees cheating their own corporations out of time, money, and overall productivity? Many agree that the advent of email, instant messaging, and the world-wide-web have created an easy way for employees to take unnoticed and unregulated personal breaks throughout the work day. Beyond the lack of productivity created by these employees, this type of behavior also has the potential to create other serious problems for the organization. For these reasons, many employers must decide whether or not to implement internet usage policies. Many of these policies may even use monitoring devices for email, IM, and website history. We will examine the ethics and the consequences of employees taking personal time on the company dime.
Ethics and Communication: Personal Time on the Company Dime
In the workplace, there are numerous ways for employees to communicate with co-workers, friends, and family. Traditional communication channels were limited to phone, mail, and face-to-face interaction. Technological advances over the last twenty years have given employees a surplus of new ways to communicate. Employees now have the ability to use e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, face-to-face video-conferencing, and networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. All of these new electronic capabilities have enabled employees to contact friends and family within seconds. There is no question that these technological advancements have improved our quality of life. In contrast, they have also decreased the overall productivity of many employees. Employees across the globe are taking advantage of these available resources and using them for personal time at work. According to a survey taken in 2005 by Salary.com and AOL, more than 10,000 employees admitted to wasting an average of 2.09 hours per day (Sahadi, 2005). This study showed that the time wasted by employees in 2005 totaled around $759 billion (Sahadi, 2005). These figures illustrate the economic severity of allowing employees to use their work time for personal reasons.
Studies have shown that e-mail is the most widely abused way of stealing company time. According to a survey by Harris Interactive, “55% of the 1,711 respondents said that they send and receive personal e-mail on their work accounts.” (Schweitzer, 2007). This clearly lowers productivity. However, there are many other negatives associated with using personal e-mail in the workplace. Many viruses are spread through e-mail attachments. Viruses can destroy important files, hardware, and entire networks. Also many personal e-mail accounts are highly vulnerable to hackers who gain unauthorized access in order to steal financial data or critical trade secrets. An electronic disaster like this could cost a corporation millions of dollars. An additional nuisance caused by using work accounts for personal use is excessive “spam”, or junk e-mail. According to a study by Nucleus Research Inc. in 2003, the average employee receives 13.3 spam e-mail messages per day (NRI, 2003). N.R.I. also found that in 2003 “spam” will cost the average organization 1.4% in productivity, or $874 per employee per year (NRI, 2003). As the research confirms, the use of personal e-mail at work has the potential to be devastating for corporations and its employees. The ethical option for all employees is to resist using work e-mail accounts for personal matters. Additionally, they should avoid using their personal e-mail accounts at work.
Instant messaging is a different tool that many employees utilize to chat with co-workers, family, and friends while at their desks. Instant messaging services such as AIM or Yahoo! Messenger...